The 2020 McLaren GT
A Woking Tour
Although my ownership of the occasional supercar is necessarily limited – having never owned a supercar – I’ve enjoyed enough tangential experience with the category to have formed an opinion…or two. Speaking only in the most general terms, it seems as if owning a supercar would be not unlike dating a Picasso nude. At first blush (and with a Picasso nude, there’s always a first blush) the concept seems intriguing. But then you get her home and ask yourself: Where-the-hell am I gonna’ take a Picasso nude?
The same question, of course, confronts the typical owner of a Ferrari, Lamborghini or – in its more accessible category – Maserati. These three have more in common than names ending in a vowel; they all deliver a visceral vortex of creative cacophony, wrapped (invariably) in envelopes stuffed with an almost hormonal sensuality. And while not wanting to paint either Italians or Brits too broadly, at its home in Woking, Surrey, England, McLaren chooses to infuse its road cars with quiet, capable masculinity; the product planners at McLaren think – I think – like Ian Fleming, while those in northern Italy try (and try and try…) to emulate Enzo Ferrari.
McLaren, as you will hopefully know, was founded by driver and constructor Bruce McLaren, seen most recently as the driver displacing Ken Miles on the Le Mans podium in 1966. But there’s much more to the legacy of Bruce McLaren than a Hollywood cameo. A promising young driver in his native New Zealand, McLaren made the jump to Europe in the late ‘50s, quickly becoming competitive in the Cooper Formula One team with F1 champion Jack Brabham. Later, as a constructor and pilot, McLaren won in both Formula One and the ultra-competitive Can-Am series. And although it’s been 50 years since McLaren’s death in an accident while testing a McLaren Can-Am car, his innovative spirit – plus an all-consuming emphasis on development and reliability – endure in both the McLaren racing team and its manufacturing arm.
Few things, of course, speak better to GT – i.e., Grand Touring – design than development and reliability. The bar for a sports car is typically much lower, as distances traveled are usually much shorter. Sure, you have had people taking Lotus Elans from sea-to-shining-sea, but that was at a time when most college towns had some wrench able to speak British; today, you’d have to rely on a Hagerty membership and flatbed. And then, of course, if a car is capable of the grand tour, you must be able to pack for it.
It’s no surprise, then, that McLaren’s GT stretches its sports car footprint with longer front and rear overhangs, and incorporates in that additional sheetmetal some twenty cubic feet of luggage capacity. But know that the abundant capacity inside isn’t readily apparent from the outside; this is still one low-slung projectile (and not – notably – a Bentley), looking for all the civilized world capable of going 200 miles per hour…which it can and should. But there’s a maturity in the McLaren GT’s form that is more serious than sensual, more purposeful than pretty. A gold Rolex will work with it, but stainless or titanium will go better.
Inside, the McLaren’s pace is matched with space. At 5’7” and 165 pounds I’m fairly lost in that space – guys in the Sans-a-belts will fit fine. The dash is digital, nav and infotainment are intuitive (within the context of the 21st century), and the GT’s steering wheel offers no buttons or adjustments to distract from the business at hand – you know, driving the thing. And with 612 horsepower immediately behind you, you’ll want to drive.
We’ll admit ‘twin-turbo V8’ doesn’t roll off the tongue like V12 or flat 12 rolls off the tongue, but there’s no argument here with the math. Propelling a curb weight of roughly 3300 pounds, there’s 400 hp per ton to get you where you want to go; it won’t outrun a police radio, but can probably outrun any number of private helicopters. Within the context of a test composed of a few hours in the afternoon and but a couple of hours the following morning, the McLaren delivered all that I’d expect of the platform, and more than I had expected of its appointments.
When a car’s window sticker approaches that of a small tract home in Dallas, it would behoove the buyer to make sure his or her choice is a good fit with both the budget and the psyche. Unlike some of its competition, however, McLaren’s GT won’t damage the psyche, as long – of course – as you continue to make those monthlies. As McLaren himself might tell you, ‘good luck with that, mate’.